Just over four years ago, Alex and I got married. Our wedding cake was a beautiful, 3-tiered carrot cake with cream cheese pecan filling and an American buttercream. The wonderful people at The Royal Cakery in New Orleans did an absolutely amazing job making it. They own a small bakery that only makes three wedding cakes each weekend so they can make sure that everything turns out perfectly. Our cake was so delicious that, on the morning we left to move to NYC, I was still trying to eat the thawed top tier for breakfast as the idea of throwing out any of it seemed atrocious.
Carrot cake might seem like an odd choice for a wedding cake, especially since cooked carrots and cream cheese are both on the long list of things Alex won’t eat, but it was actually one of the easiest wedding decisions that we made. It also started an anniversary tradition.
For our first anniversary, my Mom brought us a homemade carrot cake. For our second…maybe we ordered it at a restaurant? I’m not sure, but I’m sure it was there. Last year I made a special request at work and our cake decorator decorated a carrot cake with an Up theme! My co-worker used colored chocolate and jellybeans to make this adorable little cake for us. Remember that whimsical song they play in the beginning of Pixar’s Up with the montage of Ellie and Carl’s life together? It’s called “The Married Life” and it was Alex and my first dance at our wedding.
This year I decided it was time for me to make our anniversary cake. I had made this cake only once before, but I have to say it’s one of the best homemade cakes I’ve ever had (if I do say so myself) and I had to share it. I don’t often make cakes as they’re time consuming, but I think that they’re such a great gesture and can look so gorgeous. I am not a great cake decorator, so I like to keep it simple which I think can have just as good of an impact. The chopped pecans on the side of this cake also act as a great way to hide the fact that I’m not the best at icing cakes.
Speaking of icing cakes, can we talk about the crumb coat for a second? I made a mess of many, many cakes before I ever heard of such a thing. A crumb coat is a thin layer of icing that you put on the cake to keep the crumbs from getting in the icing. There’s a tutorial here but essentially you spread a thin layer onto the cake and let it harden slightly either on the counter or in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Don’t worry about making it pretty. Then you can ice the cake as you normally would without worrying that the crumbs are going to speckle the outside layer. It makes a huge difference and is worth the extra effort.
Oil for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3 cups carrots, shredded or grated
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped and portioned
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two round 9-inch cake pans and dust them with flour. Set aside. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and use a whisk to combine and remove any lumps. Using a paddle attachment, add the eggs one at a time, then the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Let them cool for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan onto a rack and let cool completely.
To make the icing,add the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla to your mixer and beat until fluffy. Spread 1/2-3/4 of a cup of icing onto the cake layer that you want to be the bottom half. Spread it evenly over just the top and then sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped pecans over the layer. Place the other layer on top of this one. Ice the cake and use the remaining chopped pecans as decoration around the sides or top.